Families and communities play a key role in raising capable, functioning people. However, there are a number of stresses that can threaten the optimal functioning of the family unit. These include: time stress, financial stress, parental mental health and substance abuse which can threaten family cohesion. These, in turn, may reflect or result in poor quality parent-child relationships (both resident and non-resident), conflict between parent figures and between parents and children, and abuse or neglect of children.
In the 2006 Longitudinal Study of Australia's Children, most parents reported high levels of family cohesion when rating their family's ability to get along with one another (on a five point scale from 'poor' to 'excellent'). The majority (95%) of families with children aged 2-3 years, and 93% of families with children aged 6-7 years, reported 'excellent,' 'very good' or 'good' levels of family cohesion.
Feeling pressed for time can also add stress to family life. Over two-thirds (67%) of mothers living in a couple relationship with a child under 15 years reported always or often feeling rushed or pressed for time in 2006, compared to 61% of fathers in the same family type. Similarly, both females and males in one parent families with children under 15 reported high levels of always or often feeling rushed or pressed for time (61% and around 52% respectively). For partners in a couple family with no children, the proportion who always or often felt rushed or pressed for time was considerably lower: 34% for men and 37% for women (ABS 2008).
Raising children is a complex job, and if one or both parents suffer illness or psychological distress, this may result in poor outcomes for children (Silburn et al 1996). In 2007-08, 12% of mothers and 9% of fathers in couple families reported high or very high psychological distress. While some mothers with very young children suffer post-natal depression, the proportion of mothers with children younger than five reporting high or very high psychological distress was the same as that for mothers with children aged 10-14 (around 17%). However, the proportion of lone mothers reporting high or very high psychological distress was almost double that of mothers in couple families (22% compared with 12%).
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